Artists are entre­pre­neurs; they have to market them­selves and their work, and exper­iment and take risks in order to find what people like. Art as an industry has trans­formed alongside culture and the con­tem­porary economy. Our Internet age has changed the market and artists have to be cre­ative as they nav­igate that new frontier.

Gallery 49 in Reading, Michigan allows local artists to exhibit, sell, receive feedback on, and gain inspi­ration for their art, ranging from wood­carvings and mosaics to paintings and pho­tog­raphy. Gallery 49 artist Rhonda Peters creates polymer clay sculp­tures and has written the children’s story “What Does the Monkey Know?” based on a piece she sub­mitted to Grand Rapids’ Art Prize.

“Social media is big for me, how to use it and manip­ulate it to your advantage,” Peters said. “There’s a knack to using Facebook and being friendly about putting your art on there. There’s ways to intrigue people to play with your art as you’re making it and being part of that process.”

It is not just the sculpting arts that receive help in mar­keting from the Internet, but also actors, designers, and musi­cians.

“More and more of the business is becoming self-pro­moting,” Pro­fessor of Theatre George Angell said. “Your success as a per­former is a self-made thing. Every actor needs to have a website, a Twitter account, the ability for people to find them online — see what they do online. If you’re in the voice-over business, people put out samples of their voices online and the kinds of voices they do.”

While there is a growing focus on self-pro­motion online, physical gal­leries aim to help artists tran­sition from pro­moting them­selves as a business to forming a co-op that shares costs.

“It’s a lot easier having people coming through the door to us than me loading a trailer and going to the various shows,” handmade paper artist Jan Heck­en­lively said.

Pastel artist Jamee Car­penter agrees.

“Being with the gallery pro­vides an oppor­tunity I couldn’t have on my own,” Car­penter said. “I couldn’t afford a gallery this size. The support of having the building, the people doing the work, that’s a big part of it.”

The structure of art oppor­tu­nities has also been trans­formed by gov­ern­mental involvement, according to sculpture pro­fessor Anthony Fru­dakis.

Fru­dakis said in the late 19th and early 20th century, projects like war memo­rials were made available by private money, coming from people like J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie. They sup­ported phil­an­thropic mis­sions and felt the social respon­si­bility to give back.

In the past 50 years, however, projects like these have become insti­tu­tion­alized by state, local, and federal orga­ni­za­tions, like the National Endowment for the Arts and the General Ser­vices Admin­is­tration, through the “Percent for Art” program.

“The danger I see with that is you have people in one region of the country com­mis­sioning art for parts of the country which they know very little about,” Fru­dakis said. “We have a dis­connect very often between what the general population’s taste may be and what’s being chosen for them.”

There may be a dis­tance-driven  dis­connect where gov­ernment and art is con­cerned, but for the indi­vidual, with the help of the Internet,  the world of acces­sible art is growing.

“Internet sales have helped artists present and market their works in prof­itable ways,” pro­fessor of art Sam Knecht said. “We require art majors to establish per­sonal web­sites. We know of many artists who are enjoying sales of work through the Internet.”

Renee Sur­prenant, tech­nical director in theatre arts, echoed this idea, saying for designers espe­cially, an online port­folio is essential for exposure to potential employers.

For theatre, Actors’ Access will per­son­alize oppor­tu­nities to job-seekers based on their age and interests, according to Angell.

However, the Internet has com­pletely trans­formed the art industry and the oppor­tu­nities available to them.

For actors, most people per­forming are working across mediums, not just in theater, but film, TV, com­mer­cials, and voice acting.

Angell said the greatest chal­lenge for actors is the travel. It’s hard for them to settle down because if they want employment, they’ll probably have to go to dif­ferent places, unless they live in a place where there is a large market for it, like New York or Los Angeles.

Espe­cially for voice-overs and pod­casts, the Internet has made it pos­sible to record and work from home.

“If you get a job doing that, you end up doing your recording at home on your com­puter and sending it in via the Internet instead of going into a studio,” Angell said. “The business is changing. All that stuff is online.”

Growth in tech­nology has com­pletely trans­formed the music industry as well.

Chris McCourry is a pro­fessor of music and also a part of the McQ5 jazz band that plays for Broad Street Market’s Under­ground. McCourry lamented the loss of artists making money for their music due to the tran­sition to digital down­loads.

“Nowadays there’s no such thing as CD sales anymore,” McCourry said. “It wasn’t that long ago there was such a thing as record sales. People made money selling CDs. All that money went to the artist. That just doesn’t exist anymore. Then how do musi­cians make money? That’s what we’re trying to figure out. Maybe it opens up new and better things, but right now there’s a lot of unknown to it.”

Musi­cians can record their work  and upload it to YouTube easily today, which increases com­pe­tition, according to Gary Wolfram, a pro­fessor of eco­nomics whose son works in the music industry.Wolfram explained how in in the 60s, people bought rock and roll vinyl 45’s, which con­tained a hit song heard on the radio with another song on the opposite side. Soon, whole albums were on vinyl. This brought about the rock and roll tours that pro­moted the album. Tickets would be sold at inex­pensive prices so that the tickets would sell fast.

“You wanted the show to sell out right away,” Wolfram said. “You set the price where the demand would exceed supply. So then people say, ‘Oh my gosh, Rolling Stones tour. Wow, it’s sold out in five minutes, so that should be a good album.’”

The intro­duction of digital CD’s, however, led the way to property rights issues.

“You guys would have no qualms copying that CD onto somebody else’s com­puter, but they would not steal the same CD from Checker Records,” Wolfram said.

Spotify and Internet down­loads only increase the amount of free music, one of the reasons singer Taylor Swift pulled all her music from Spotify Monday.

Since music is now essen­tially free, the music sells the  tour. Lis­teners enjoy the songs they download, which makes them want to see the per­for­mance live. Con­sumers pur­chase expe­ri­ences today.The tour is not duplicable, so musi­cians can sell tickets for $200, when they used to be $10.

“Now you can buy single songs, like they were doing in 1960,” Wolfram said. “But, guess what’s coming back? Records. Go down to Checker Records. You can buy a vinyl right now. Now that’s the new thing again. You have a vinyl record you can look at, you can hold it. Where with the MP3, you can hear it, but now we’re saying the expe­rience is dif­ferent. First of all it’s analog, not digital, so it’s going to sound a little bit dif­ferent, and you have a physical object.”

Perhaps this cycle of every­thing old is new again will con­tinue to persist, but one thing is for sure: with the advances in  tech­nology, the business of art will never be the same.

“In the old days, there were bar­riers to entry,” Wolfram said. “Today, there’s lots of ways to enter the industry.”

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Breana Noble
Breana Noble is The Collegian's Editor-in-Chief. She is a born and raised Michigander and studies politics and journalism. This summer, Breana interned in New York City at TheStreet, a business and finance news website. She has previously worked for The Detroit News, The American Spectator, and Newsmax Media. She eventually hopes to pursue a career in investigative journalism. email: | twitter: @RightandNoble